Ableism and its Impact on Our Children

As parents, we’re keenly aware of the difficulties our children struggle with and do our best to help them blend in with the rest of society. We know what happens when you don’t blend in. You get stares. Children ask questions, and instead of answering them the parents shush them, as if the act of noticing someone else is different is inherently naughty. The child’s question goes unanswered, and so the child stares. The parent looks everywhere but in your direction and ignores you and your child’s existence.

“…the “ableist” societal world-view is that the able-bodied are the norm in society, and that people who have disabilities must either strive to become that norm or should keep their distance from able-bodied people.” (1)

Is this the intent of the parent shushing their child? It’s doubtful. In the process of learning, children have a tendency to ask a lot of questions in public that aren’t appropriate public topics. The intent of the parent is likely good. Unfortunately, those good intentions send a specific message to the child. Disability is to be ignored. Do not try to understand why someone looks different. Leave the person that looks different alone (avoid them).

When your child is little, it’s unlikely they notice the stares and people looking anywhere but at them. However, as they get older they begin to notice. Have you ever been ignored at a party or family gathering by someone? It’s uncomfortable. Imagine if that happened on a much larger scale, everywhere you went. I can’t even imagine, as an able-bodied person, the amount of pain that would cause over 20, 30, or more years.

I’ve only recently become aware of the ableism movement. I’m confident there’s a lot to say on the subject I simply don’t know from a few hours of research. Please, I encourage you to comment and share what you know about this topic. I want to know more about this so we can increase awareness. Lack of knowledge on the topic is what spawns these inappropriate reactions. Increasing awareness is the only way to reduce the stigma associated with disability.

  1. Ableism. 27 Jul 2015.

2 responses

  1. I don’t often comment on the blogs that I read here but for this I feel like I have to ask. Why do you think that “ableism” or whatever you want to call it is a bad thing?

    I understand why you may view it as a disadvantage or distasteful practice given your situation however by fighting the Social-Darwinism aspect of life you are essentially holding back our ability to grow as a society. People who are considered “off” are looked at oddly or ignored not because people are inherently mean but rather because we are all coded genetically to seek out the most able bodied friends and relationships in order to survive. I hate to say it this way but having a group with 5 special needs individuals seriously destroys the ability of the group to survive if there was a true problem that required quick thinking, movement, or advanced cognition (depending on the nature of the special needs). Its not that we as a society are ignorant its rather that we are looking for the most advantageous friends/family/whatever.

    Part of the ableism movement is actually that they do not like the idea that a disability is inherently a “bad” thing that must be overcome. If you do agree with ableism movement, you need to think about where our world would be if those who were technically incapable were still given social lives as if they were or worse jobs as if they were. I have special needs in my family but I can at least understand that they are not “capable” of many things and at best its on me to change what I can. Trying to ask society to change is asinine, its not their responsibility to cater to your child……

    That said, any actions that are above and beyond simply ignoring would be beyond wrong morally but simply noticing problems and reacting around the individual who has them shouldn’t be a bad thing. Its a fine line.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you for your comment!

      I agree, it is a fine line. The main point I was trying to make in regards to teaching your child to ignore someone who looks different is, it leads to the child being uninformed about disabilities. Saying something such as, “it’s rude to stare,” and answering the child’s questions (or allowing the disabled person to do so), enables the child to have a learning experience instead.

      Whom a person chooses to include in their social circles is not something in which I want to be involved.

      Thank you for sharing insight into the, “ableism,” movement. I’m new to the topic and still becoming familiar with everything that it entails. I, personally, don’t believe that disability is an inherently bad thing. Each and every person in this world operates toward their strengths and interests. I don’t see why not being able to do something others can do would be a terrible thing.
      For instance, I enjoy taking pictures because I have a camera that can take good quality pictures. If someone else did not have a camera, I wouldn’t fault them for not taking up photography as a hobby. Surely there are plenty of other hobbies out there to enjoy that someone without a camera can do. If there were a way for them to somehow obtain a camera and they subsequently took up photography as a hobby then I would be happy for them, but I would not judge them if they were never able to do so or treat them any differently.

      As far as employment, the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requires reasonable accommodation be made to employ people with disabilities. You can find more information about ADA at the link below.


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